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Almost 2 million rear-end collisions occur on U.S. roads each year. Many of these accidents lead to severe or fatal injuries that devastate families. Others result in minor injuries that take just a few days or weeks to heal.
Here are ten of the most common rear-end collision injuries:
Whiplash is a common injury in rear-end collisions. The force of the accident impact can cause a violent, sudden movement of the head and neck, and the resulting injury can be severe. To make matters worse, rear-end collisions often take drivers by surprise, so they have no time to brace for the impact. The head and neck muscles are more relaxed, so they move more violently.
It can take months or even years to recover from a serious whiplash injury. More than half of people who experience whiplash have pain and discomfort lasting more than a year. There have been studies conducted that up to 42 percent of whiplash injuries result in permanent discomfort and pain.
In rear-end collisions, the force of the impact can propel drivers and passengers forward and into the dashboard or steering wheel. Even in a minor collision, head injuries can occur. Doctors should treat them immediately.
Even if the airbags deploy correctly, a person’s head can still hit the dashboard or objects can even impale it.
Injured victims may experience:
Unfortunately, the symptoms of a brain injury can take days or even weeks to appear. For this reason, it’s crucial to seek medical attention as soon as possible after a rear-end collision—especially if you hit your head on the dashboard or anything else in the vehicle.
When accidents occur, drivers usually have their hands on the steering wheel. It’s natural to grip the steering wheel tightly when bracing for impact, but this can actually increase the risk of injury to the arm or wrist.
It’s not uncommon for drivers or even passengers to suffer wrist fractures or even shoulder injuries in a rear-end collision.
Violent movement in the head or neck can cause a spinal injury. In severe cases, spinal cord injuries can lead to permanent paralysis. According to research from the CDC, spinal cord injuries are the leading cause of paralysis in the U.S.
If the injury affects the cervical spine (just below the neck), the injured victim may lose function in both the arms and legs.
Spinal cord injuries are serious and require immediate medical care. Even with prompt care, recovery can take months or years. Some victims never recover or return to work. These injuries can require costly lifelong care and rehabilitation. Emotional trauma is also common with spinal cord injuries, as victims must come to grips with their new lives.
Rear-end collisions can injure the tendons and muscles in the back. If the impact causes a vehicle occupant to twist or contort, they can strain or sprain their back.
Both types of injuries can cause:
Recovery can take several weeks (sometimes much, much longer), and the sufferer may be unable to return to work right away. In addition, inactivity during recovery can cause the sufferer to lose muscle strength or gain weight.
Facial injuries are common in rear-end collisions and, in severe cases, these injuries can cause permanent disfigurement or scarring.
Disfigurement and scarring can affect the victim’s self-confidence, but it can also lead to long-term medical issues. For example, if a vehicle occupant’s head strikes an object in the vehicle, they may be left with lifelong vision or eye problems. Injuries that affect the jaw or nose can also have long-term effects.
When a vehicle hits another from behind, the impact can cause part of the spine to collapse. This is a compression fracture, typically affecting the mid-back.
Along with severe pain, a compression fracture can cause deformity and even loss of height. Recovery can take several months, but the process can be even longer if surgery is required.
Even in seemingly minor fender-benders, drivers and passengers should seek medical attention. Some common rear-end collision injuries take hours or days to manifest.
Back and spinal injuries are common in rear-end collisions, including slipped or herniated discs.
Discs are the rubbery cushions that sit between the vertebrae in your spine. These cushions have soft cores at the center. Injuries can tear through your discs and leave the soft core exposed. This is called a slipped or herniated disc.
For some people, a slipped disc doesn’t cause any symptoms. For others, the pain can be severe.
Herniated discs can also cause:
Surgery may need to treat a slipped disc in severe cases.
Some rear-end collision injuries, like spinal stenosis, aren’t a direct result of the accident. Fractures or dislocations in the spine can cause narrowing of the bone that protects your nerves and spinal cord. That narrowing effect can put pressure on the nerves and even cause nerve damage.
Spinal stenosis can cause severe pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness.
A rear-end collision may burn, fracture, or lacerate occupants. If the impact causes a fire or explosion, the driver and passengers may suffer severe burns and scars. In some cases, injuries are fatal.
Even in minor accidents, glass can shatter, and metal parts may be twisted and exposed. Both can cause deep lacerations that may lead to extensive blood loss. Some people experience lifelong nerve damage because of these injuries.
If the frame of the vehicle bends or twists, it can pin or compress limbs, leading to severe injuries.
Rear-end collisions can cause a wide range of injuries, many of which are severe. Even if the accident appears minor, drivers should still seek medical attention right away. Some injury symptoms can take days or weeks to manifest.
If you or a loved one has suffered one of these rear-end collision injuries, an attorney can help you understand your rights and help you pursue compensation for damages.